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Penn State Developing Mixed Hydrogen Fleet for Trials

Penn State, which has Pennsylvania’s only hydrogen fueling station on its University Park campus, is developing a mixed-vehicle fleet, including two cars, a bus and vans, to demonstrate different aspects of hydrogen’s potential.

By the end of the summer, Penn State’s Hybrid and Hydrogen Vehicle Research Center (H2VRC) expects to have a transit bus and a University maintenance van operating on a HCNG (hydrogen/natural gas blend) along with a GM EV-1 they modified with a fuel-cell range-extender (HyLion).

Development and deployment of the hydrogen vehicle fleet involves the collaboration of Penn State’s Pennsylvania Transportation Institute, of which the Hybrid and Hydrogen Vehicle Research Center is a part, the University’s Office of Physical Plant, the Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA) and Collier Technologies of Reno, Nev.

Air Products and Chemicals Inc. developed the hydrogen fueling station, which produces hydrogen by steam reforming of natural gas (SMR).

Collier Technologies has modified a transit bus and university vans to burn mixtures with up to 50% hydrogen by volume—HCNG. Hydrogen-CNG volumetric mixtures of 20% or less hydrogen are called Hythane; mixtures above 21% are patented and held by Collier Technologies, which has licensed it to City Engines, a developer of HCNG-powered heavy-duty engines. (Earlier post.)

Penn State engineers will perform emissions testing on the bus burning a 30% HCNG mixture, which they expect to meet the more stringent 2007 heavy-duty engine emission levels without any tailpipe aftertreatment.

Testing done by a DOE-sponsored project on HCNG development using a 20% hydrogen-CNG blend demonstrated lower emissions, including a 50% reduction in NOx, than similar engines fueled with CNG alone with no significant change in fuel efficiency.

The Air Products hydrogen fueling station currently offers the option of 30% HCNG mixtures or pure hydrogen.

The HyLion fuel-cell unit. Photo: Emily Rowlands.

The HyLion EV was donated to Penn State by General Motors with its original electric batteries and some controllers removed. H2VRC developed a new battery pack and controllers, and added the off-the-shelf fuel cell range extender. HyLion has its plug-in charging and V2G capabilities.

In addition, H2VRC researchers and Collier Technologies are working to adapt the gasoline engine in a hybrid electric vehicle to run on pure hydrogen.

By the end of summer hydrogen fueling station demand should be about 40 kg of hydrogen per day to supply the bus, vans and car, as well as other research use at the university. The bus will require about 26 kg of hydrogen per fill and will be able to roll all day from 4 a.m. to midnight—about 300 miles—on one fill-up. When additional vans are added to the fleet, production can be ramped-up to 100 kg per day.

The project is supported by grants from the US Department of Energy, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Community and Economic Development.




GM really goofed by crushing those EV-1's when people were willing to PAY for them without any expectation of service or warranty. Good to see they managed to donate one to an interesting cause.


Penn must have an alum on the GM board in order to get them to give up the GM's rarest car.

Hmmm, maybe if I marry a board member's daughter I can get one too. Cue the Barry White!

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